Panthers hope to keep on dancing

Win vs. N. Carolina gives Pitt bowl bid

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Paul Chryst did stop and celebrate Pitt's win against Notre Dame, at least for a little bit.

Over the past week, a video of Chryst dancing in the locker room after the game made the rounds over the Internet, showing that the coach who often presents a no-nonsense public persona does have a lighter side.

Once the music was turned off, though, Chryst was on to the next task: preparing his team for today's game against North Carolina.

"We've got to stay consistent," he said. "Anytime you play a national TV game and Notre Dame is a great program, all that happens. But guys invest a lot into the season, and we're going to make sure we're doing everything we can. We have enough guys on the team that will help each other be prepared, and that's the opportunity of every week."

Last year, Pitt let its loss against the Irish linger a little too long, and players admitted they let it affect them negatively in their loss at Connecticut the following week.

Chryst said the message his staff has been communicating this week has been clear. The win against Notre Dame, no matter how significant at the time, has no bearing on whether or not Pitt will beat the Tar Heels today. Moreover, a loss this afternoon would devalue what could have been a season-defining victory.

"I know they're hearing it, but I don't think you ever know [if it hits home] until [you see] what we do," Chryst said. "I think that's the beauty of sports, you've got to go do it. You can talk all you want about that, but what your actions are and how you do it, how we come out Saturday and when we get faced with adversity, how we handle that."

The Panthers should also have plenty of motivation with a potential bowl bid on the line. Their destination would still be up in the air, but a victory against the Tar Heels would ensure postseason play for Pitt for the sixth year in a row.

"It's hard not to think about," quarterback Tom Savage said. "Obviously you want to get that bowl game, but I think we've just got to focus on play by play.

"It would be fun, especially for the older guys, too. They've been through a lot, so it'd be cool to get that extra game for them."

The Tar Heels come into today's game as winners of three in a row, albeit the past two were against Atlantic Coast Conference bottom-feeders North Carolina State and Virginia.

Still, Chryst said watching tape this week showed a team finally starting to hit its groove.

"It's a well-coached team right now because they're playing within the scheme," he said. "But the scheme allows their players to turn it loose. I think probably like anything, [it's] confidence. As they start going, that's where the term rhythm seemed to kind of jump at me. They're in that rhythm."

Pitt, meanwhile, is hoping its own rhythm carries over from one week to the next.

"I think we came out, worked hard and we're preparing to have another great week, like we have the last couple," receiver Devin Street said.

"We're not where we want to be yet, but we're working toward it. We still have three games left on the schedule that we have to win and we want to win."

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NOTE -- Pitt secured its 19th verbal commitment of the 2014 class Friday when Niles (Ill.) running back Chris James gave his pledge to the Panthers, according to multiple reports. James is rated as a three-star running back by Rivals.com and a four-star on Scout.com. He chose the Panthers over offers from Wisconsin, Tennessee and Michigan State, among others. He is the second running back in Pitt's class, joining Buffalo, N.Y., prospect Qadree Ollison. The Panthers are still holding out hope for a commitment from star Washington, Pa., running back Shai McKenzie.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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